Windows RT still haunted by the ghost of Microsoft's 2001 tablet fiasco
Make laptops or fondleslabs: the fondletop can't work
Comment Microsoft's Windows is coming to tablets again, showing that a fondleslab can do anything a laptop can. Yet not all Windows tablets are equal, and Microsoft is relying on our ongoing obsession with physical keyboards to ensure that Windows RT remains secondary to the flagship full-fat Windows 8 operating system.
It's not the first time Microsoft has tried to push keyboard-free computing - Bill Gates was convinced Windows on tablet PCs was a sure-fire bet in 2001. However, repeating what happened last time, the hardware manufacturers will again churn out hybrid devices that do it all, mostly by bolting keyboards onto touchscreen gadgets and turning them into slightly inferior laptops.
Microsoft hopes its own Surface laptop-cum-tablets will ease punters onto touch-only computing by providing something recognisably keyboard-like that can be quickly discarded once the user is comfortable with the finger-driven desktop interface.
But when a device has a keyboard attached to it punters will use it as a laptop no matter how clever or innovative the hinge-click-swivel-spin mechanism is between the screen and the keys. We saw this with the original Windows for tablets where hybrid PCs adorned many executives' desks, promising the best of both worlds but ultimately delivering a slightly inferior version of one of them.
Hybrid users quickly stopped switching between modes and tablets became overpriced laptops and then disappeared entirely. It's hard to see why the new generation of hybrids should fare any different: once the novelty has worn off it's just a laptop with a bigger hinge.
Even the most twisty of hybrids, the Vadem Clio, didn't make it
But Microsoft can't afford for Surface, or any Windows RT device, to go the same way - not least because its Office suite will be bundled and sold with the machines. Microsoft wants RT to glide into the market slot created by Apple for the iPad: an addition to a Windows 8 laptop, not a replacement for one.
When the Asus Transformer was launched, an Android tablet with detachable keyboard, people labelled it a laptop replacement, but in fact most Transformer keyboards are collecting dust in drawers these days, their touchscreens smudged by fingertips and their owners using laptops for professional work.
Microsoft actually hopes the same will happen to Surface and the rest of the Windows RT bunch. By providing a facsimile of a keyboard, Microsoft reckons buyers will snap up RT-powered Surface slabs to replace laptops - and later miss the depth of a real keyboard and the familiar clamshell form factor of a laptop. At least then punters will be able to console themselves that they now have a pleasant enough tablet to go with the new Windows 8 laptop they'll have to buy.
It would be nice to think that tablet users will realise a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse can make a laptop superfluous, or that the Bluetooth version of Handykey will finally arrive and release us all from the tyranny of qwerty. That would be a real revolution in computing, but not one that would be welcomed by Microsoft. ®
Oh, this is completely backwards. So Windows on a tablet was the next big thing but Microsoft couldn't convince people of that? Sorry, I was there, and Windows on a touch screen was an incredibly frustrating, brain-dead, crappy idea. We currently own a Windows 7 "touch edition" tablet and it isn't any better.
I haven't seen Windows 8 yet. But Microsoft's idea of a "touch" interface up to 7 was simply rebranding the accessibility tools that have been there since Windows 95. A on-screen keyboard that pops up in a random place, usually covering up the text box you're trying to fill. Odd squiggly motions designed to emulate the actions of a three button mouse. It was crap. Microsoft had no understanding of how to build a touch interface -- they thought it means providing touch alternatives to standard Windows KVM actions. It was a nightmare, other than in very specialized environments where you spend all of your time in a true touch-enabled application. You first had to get the OS out of the way in order to get anything done.
People put keyboards and mice on Microsoft tablets because they *had* to, in order to get *work* done, not due to some psychotic clinging to the input methods of yore.
Will Windows 8 really be different? Maybe. But Microsoft still seems to be trying to wedge the same gooey paradigm into every environments, this time going the other way, making a phone interface work on tablets and PCs. For this reason we may upgrade our useless Windows 7 fondleslab to Windows 8, but none of our other machines will see 8. For a regular PC, 7 is good enough, and 8 looks like a fiasco.
"I can't understand why our IT department ordered in the first place"
"Has anyone asked for a slate computer yet? I really want to play with one".
"This guy needs a new laptop, something really portable it says here".
"Not a slate?".
"No, but Toshiba do this one that converts from slate to laptop, that's got to be fairly compact so we say it's the most portable laptop that we can find. He gets his 'puter, you get to play with a slate".
"What's the spec like?"
"Good point, pass me the order form".
Hm, I must be a very peculiar case, given I use my transformer as both a laptop and a tablet. I do a lot of reading and a lot of writing and it's great for both roles.
Good on the plane too. Lasted all the way from Florence on a single charge. Very handy.
Not a laptop
> Surface laptop-cum-tablets
It may have a foldout out keyboard but Surface is not a laptop. It may be possible to balance it on one's lap briefly but it won't be usable there. The screen will be fixed at an angle too upright. The weight balance is wrong. The keyboard junction is floppy. The edge is too sharp and will become uncomfortable. Any attempt at swiping the screen will result in disaster.
Also it is unlikely to be usable on an aircraft table, mainly because the screen would need to be more vertical than the stand, or balance, would allow and the keyboard will not provide support.
Actual reviews (rather than puffery items) support this view.
The people were the problem
The products were good for their time, the TC1100 especially. It's just that the people didn't understand nor believe they wanted one back then. It's like how it took Sky+ to make everyone realise that in fact they *did* want that Tivo thing when they were buying DVD-R machines to record Eastenders on.